Time Travel focuses today on August 2006. That’s when Barry Collier left Nebraska for Butler. That’s when Steve Pederson plucked Doc Sadler out of El Paso, Texas.
At the time, very few people in Nebraska had ever heard of Sadler — I couldn’t have picked him out of a lineup. But he charmed everyone early, demonstrating how different he would be than Collier.
Below, I posted Lee Barfknecht’s story from Sadler’s first press conference. (The last quote for Husker fans is like a knife to the gut.) Almost six years later, the optimism is gone. And another coaching search is likely coming soon.
* * *
>> ESPN’s player-of-the-year straw poll shows Doug McDermott in fourth place, with zero first-place votes. The CBS guys have McDermott seventh. His hopes of winning player of the year are over, thanks mostly to Creighton’s struggles the past two weeks. But Doug still has a chance of being a first-team All-American if the Jays can get hot again.
For the record, I’m a Wooden award voter and, right now, I’m leaning toward Thomas Robinson at KU. If I had to pick five players (from any positions), I’d go with Robinson, Anthony Davis, Draymond Green, Marcus Denmon and probably Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan. McDermott would be a close sixth.
>> Man, the Big East is a mess, especially in football. A proposal for 2012 — when the league has just seven football schools — had Syracuse playing Rutgers twice. But Syracuse’s AD wants no part.
>> How close is the current Alabama run to Nebraska 1993-97? Not that close.
>> Kate Upton’s family consists of die-hard Michigan fans.
>> Berry Tramel lists Nebraska among those who won’t regret conference realignment. Missouri and Texas A&M, on the other hand…
>> How strong is Tiger’s will? Joe Posnanski saw an alarming moment at Pebble Beach.
>> Very interesting opinions from Derek Dooley on the SEC’s oversigning reform. He’s not a fan of the new rules.
>> Peyton Manning may not like this jam that Jim Irsay has put him in.
>> An ESPN blogger for MMA calls Jake Ellenberger’s win last night an early candidate for “Fight of the Year.”
>> The drug bust at TCU stained the Frogs’ pristine image.
>> The best college basketball photo of the year. Hilarious.
* * *
>> Here’s Doc Sadler, the first time you met him…
The key number from Tuesday’s press conference to introduce Kenneth “Doc” Sadler as the 26th men’s basketball coach at Nebraska may have been 180.
As in the 180-degree turns that the program appears on the verge of with the 46-year-old Sadler, head coach the past two years at Texas-El Paso, taking over following the resignation of Barry Collier.
After six years of slow-down offense that saw Nebraska rank 10th, 11th or 12th in the Big 12 in scoring five times, Sadler wants to run.
“You ever watch tennis?” he asked. “We’re going to play baseline to baseline.”
Pointing to the sidelines, Sadler said:
“I don’t know how much these seats sell for. But you better get those seats,” he said, pointing under the basket. “Because you’re going to go home, and the chiropractor is going to make a living.”
After six years of closed doors and pulled window shades in the NU coaching offices, Sadler wants his players to know that he and his staff will always be available.
“I want to get some doorstops to open up those office doors,” he said. “I hate an office door that’s closed.
“When they walk by and they don’t stop by, I’m going to be mad. When they get done studying at night at 10 or 11 o’clock and see my car out there and they don’t stop by, I’m going to be mad.”
After six years of ex-players grumbling about being ignored, Sadler wants to incorporate them into the program.
“What I loved,” former NU center Andre Smith, the 1981 Big Eight player of the year, said after the press conference, “is he’s going to make it open to anybody to approach him. That’s what we’ve been waiting for.
“With the departing coach, I tried to make myself available to him. He brushed me off. Once he found out who I was, he was a little more receptive, but he had made up his mind that he wasn’t interested in me.”
More change in Nebraska basketball’s business plan was apparent Tuesday, this time with the news media and fans.
Sadler spent an hour before his press conference eating lunch with writers and broadcasters. He laughed, joked and poked fun in an informal bull session. Later in the afternoon, he went to Misty’s restaurant in downtown Lincoln to meet and greet fans.
From 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. today, Sadler will shake hands and kiss babies at Big Fred’s Pizza in Omaha.
The carnival nature of Tuesday’s events occurred, oddly, as Collier cleaned out his office and hauled boxes from the Devaney Center. Collier is headed to his alma mater, Butler, to become athletic director.
Whether all of the changes on the horizon bring a change in results – Nebraska, under Collier, went 89-91 and never had a winning conference record – remains to be seen.
But Nebraska Athletic Director Steve Pederson feels confident that he has found a winner in Sadler, a native of Greenwood, Ark. (pop. 7,415).
The two men met for the first time last Thursday night in Los Angeles at a retreat sponsored by David and Dana Pump, directors of basketball development for Adidas.
“We finished at 2 in the morning our time,” Pederson said. “Yet at 2 in the morning, I was invigorated. I felt, ‘Wow, I just met with a special guy.’”
Pederson and Sadler talked by phone on Saturday, then met in Denver on Sunday for a three-hour interview.
“That three hours went by in seconds,” Pederson said. “We talked about everything imaginable. You can see why he can recruit.”
Sadler has agreed to a sixyear deal worth $700,000 annually. His yearly pay at UTEP was $300,000. Collier made $633,818 last season.
Four other coaches hired into the Big 12 this spring agreed to deals that ranged from $650,000 to $850,000.
Pederson said financial negotiations moved quickly.
“I told him I’d try to pay him fairly and treat him right,” he said. “Doc was fabulous.”
Seated to Sadler’s right at his press conference were six fidgety Husker players who, in the past four months, have seen the man who recruited most of them – assistant Scott Spinelli, now at Wichita State – and their head coach – Collier – leave.
What do they think?
“I’m ready to buy into Doc’s system,” freshman swingman Roburt Sallie said. “I was getting ready to adjust to Coach Collier’s system, but Doc told us we are going to run and we are going to play.
“That’s the kind of system I think I need to be in. And the fans are excited that we’ll play a whole new style. That’s good because we have a whole new style of player coming in here.”
Sadler quickly let it be known that his offensive freedom comes with one catch – maximum effort on defense.
“I’m going to ask so much of these guys on one end of the floor,” he said. “They have no idea how much.”
The reward, though, is an offense with the motto, “Keep It Simple.”
“If we’ve got to draw up a bunch of plays, then we’re in trouble,” Sadler said, “because we’re going to go as fast as we can. And if we get a good shot, we’re going to shoot it quick.”
Sadler’s meeting with the players on Tuesday morning didn’t come with a spoonful of sugar.
“I’m still not totally at ease,” Sallie said. “But he was completely honest with us. He told us how it’s going to be, and I respect him for that.
“Some coaches might come in and try to sweet-talk you and not be honest. Then players get frustrated later. That won’t be the case here.”
Nebraska hasn’t played in the NCAA tournament since 1998, has never won an NCAA game in six tries and hasn’t won a conference title since 1950.
Still, big dreams floated through the Devaney Center on Tuesday.
“The state of Nebraska deserves for us to be in the NCAA tournament,” Sadler said. “And we want it to happen not next year or two years from now. We want it to happen now.”